A qualitative exploration of the socioeconomic status and motivations of Chinese students in Hungary


  • Xueyan Li Corvinus University of Budapest
  • Henriett Primecz Johannes Kepler University


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Chinese students, Hungary, socioeconomic status, motivation, qualitative research


Surprisingly little research has been conducted on Chinese students in Hungary, despite their growing number. Education has gradually become a crucial element in attaining higher socioeconomic status, so it is vital to understand such students’ socioeconomic backgrounds and motivation for studying in Central Eastern Europe. Applying cultural mobility theory, this article explores students’ family backgrounds and motivations for pursuing tertiary education in Hungary. Twenty-six narrative interviews were conducted and analysed using grounded theory method. The results indicate that three important factors influenced lower-middle-class Chinese students’ choices to study in Hungary: the constraints of reality, educational aspirations, and a desire for self-expression. Working-class or lower-middle-class families were required to make compromises for their children to study abroad because their financial means limited the opportunity for international study. Therefore, education in a relatively low-cost country like Hungary became an option. This research contributes to current theories of educational mobility by offering fresh understandings about students with a lower-middle class SES, the influx of working-class Chinese students into Hungary, as well as the relationship between upward social mobility and studying internationally. The recommendations for policymakers in China and Hungary made in this paper enable the development of practicable strategies for enhancing learning environments, producing positive educational outcomes, fostering equitable education systems, and ameliorating the impact of a lower SES background on educational and social mobility.

Author Biographies

Xueyan Li, Corvinus University of Budapest


Henriett Primecz, Johannes Kepler University

associate professor

Department of Organizational Behaviour

Institute of Management




How to Cite

Li, X. and Primecz, H. 2023. A qualitative exploration of the socioeconomic status and motivations of Chinese students in Hungary. Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics. 9, 1 (Apr. 2023), 79–100. DOI:https://doi.org/10.17356/ieejsp.v9i1.814.